Monday, April 17, 2006

Nuclear Salvation?

With concern over the increasing emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere increasing fast, there is a rise in the interest in the use of nuclear power.

In the Sunday edition of Washington Post, one of the co-founders of Greenpeace Patrick Moore describes his reluctant conversion to the need for a rapid expansion of nuclear power both in the United States and elsewhere.

When the emissions of the US are discussed it is often the use of cars that is in focus. And often cars consuming more gas than in many other parts of the world.

But it is often forgotten how important coal for power production is in the US. And it's here that nuclear power can make a very major contribution in the years ahead.

As Patrick Moore writes:

"More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions -- or nearly 10 percent of global emissions -- of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely."

Nuclear power is already making its contribution towards the reduction of CO2 emissions, but of course much more could be done:

"The 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2emissions annually -- the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only 20 percent of our electricity was generated from coal and 60 percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

"Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.

The same logic of course applies in many other parts of the world.

China and India are two important examples. Both are now planning a major expansion of nuclear power.

Russia is obviously another. Also here there is a new discussion on the nuclear option for power production.

And then there is Western Europe.

The discussion will intensify in the years ahead.

In the meantime, Patrick Moore's article is worth reading. He seek to make a balance sheet out of the pluses and the minuses.

But arrives at a distinct plus.